Oak Forest research project
The Oak Forest project was launched five years ago in Kösching Forest, a large forest to the north of Audi’s Ingolstadt plant. It is a large-scale, long-term experiment that will be conducted over a 100 year period. Since that time, trees have been planted at various Audi sites. The project goal is to study the optimal conditions for tree growth and how to create biodiversity in response to changing climate conditions.
The company’s commitment is also evident in the actions of the Audi Environmental Foundation, which was founded with five million euros of charter capital. Its goal is to promote the protection of nature and the environment as well as promoting science and research. Its primary areas of support are the protection of natural habitat for humans, animals and plants, promoting scientific studies that contribute towards a sustainable human-environment system, the development of environmentally compatible technologies and campaigns and activities for environmental education. One of the first projects supported by the foundation is a long-term scientific study related to the international Oak Forest research project.
A mature oak forest stores large quantities of hydrocarbons and provides habitat for many types of animals and plants. It provides an ecosystem for hundreds of organisms. In addition, oaks are very resistant to climate conditions. “In our project, we want to find out how to optimally plant trees so that they bind hydrocarbons in the best possible way and create good conditions for achieving biological diversity,” explains Dr. Dagobert Achatz, Managing Director of the Audi Environmental Foundation, which is financing the scientific study related to the project.
The test areas are cultivated in a special layout based on preset GPS coordinates. The English oaks were placed in concentric circles known as Nelder circles – this makes it possible to study different stand densities within a small space. There are around 500 trees in each Nelder circle. Partners of the Audi Environmental Foundation on this project in the Kösching forest are the Bavarian State Forestry Service and the Chair for Forest Yield Science at the Technical University of Munich, which are responsible for scientific support and analysis. A total of around 36,000 trees were planted in the test area.
In conducting the research project in Kösching Forest, the Audi Environmental Foundation has set a process into motion that will span generations. Trees grow slowly, and they live much longer than people. Therefore, sustainable use of natural resources is a fundamental principle of the project. Together, the partners are assuming responsibility for ensuring long-term preservation of the areas cultivated for the large-scale experiment over the next 100 years.
Since the pilot project was started in Ingolstadt, thousands of additional trees have been planted, including at Neckarsulm and the international sites Győr in Hungary and Sant’Agata Bolognese in Italy. Researchers planted 10,000 oak seedlings in a new trial site near the Belgian site in Brussels in early 2012. Further trees were added at a new trial site in the highlands of Mexico in September 2014. Numerous partners are participating in the Oak Forest project. Around 100,000 trees have been planted so far – and the goal is to plant even more.